I met and spent a short amount time with a man, Stacy, from St. Louis. I could share Stacy’s story here, on this platform, and can only imagine the awe it would inspire in everyone as it did me. However, Stacy’s story is his to tell, not mine. Instead, I would like to share the lessons this beautiful man taught me in our time together.
I would like to preface this story with a couple of facts about myself:
- Tall men intimidate the hell out of me.
- Tall men REALLY intimidate the hell out of me.
Stacy, from St. Louis, is 6 foot 5 inches. This I know because I eventually asked him.
Stacy was sitting behind a desk when I first approached him. His smile was brilliant, pure joy emanating from his face. His ball cap was resting lightly on his neatly trimmed hair. His eyes sparkled as if he knew some secret, some mischief I wasn’t yet aware of.
I instantly liked this man.
And then he stood up, all 6 foot 5 inches … towered over my smaller frame … and bent to look me in the eye.
Panic shot through my system at an all time high. I was terrified.
His dark eyes bore into mine, as if he could see every inch of my soul. I was too intimidated to move, to speak. I stared back, quickly becoming mesmerized by what I was also seeing in his eyes.
Stacy smiled his brilliant smile and said, “I am happy you are here.”
I tried breathing again, astonished that I was able. Stacy softly chuckled.
We quickly got to work as the other residents would soon be arriving. Stacy directing me with quiet authority, extreme acceptance for my abilities (more like lack of abilities) and the most rare form of unconditional guidance I have yet to experience.
I found myself not only wanting Stacy’s approval, but becoming swiftly entranced by his steady, calm vibrational energy. He asked if I would like to hear his story.
I was captivated. Yes, I longed to hear this man’s story. I needed to hear this man’s story, to understand where this calm vibration was coming from and feel his unconditional acceptance for life like, I would later learn, he used to need drugs and violence.
Again, I will share no more of Stacy’s story, despite his permission to do so, but rather share the lessons learned.
Lesson #1: Ownership and Acceptance
As Stacy told me his history and all the “bad” things he had done, not once did I hear a single excuse for his actions. His choices were facts in his life that had lead him to where he now was and he owned them with unadorned humility and authenticity, knowing he had repented and been fully forgiven by his Higher Power so deeply, he could not only accept himself unconditionally, he could accept all others unconditionally as well. He lived the words “I have been forgiven” with an awe and reverence I have not yet witnessed in any religious setting.
Lesson #2: Pride without arrogance
Stacy explained the “phases” of the rehabilitation program offered at the shelter. I watched his face light up with pride as he stated he was about to “phase up” to Stage 4 and would then “graduate”. I couldn’t help but notice how different his pride, at this significant accomplishment, looked compared to the arrogance I so often see in those who have not been able to own their choices, but continue to make excuses or blame others for their actions. As hard as I tried, I was not able to find a shred of arrogance in this man. Not one shred. He was proud of his accomplishment, yet gave all the glory to his Higher Power.
Lesson #3: Respect and Encouragement
Soon, it was serving time. Stacy called the other residents of the shelter to dinner using a speaker system. They gathered to say a quiet prayer. I watched mouths moving in silence, heads nodding affirmations, deep breaths drawn. As the men went through the serving line, Stacy was right there, asking about their day and welcoming them back “home.” He spoke to each man as if they were best friends, comrades, brothers. He maintained eye contact while cheering them on for making it through another day.
The men came through the line smiling with heads held high, having been acknowledged for their efforts that day. Their respect for each other pulsated the energy in the room as they shared this simple meal. Respect passed from Stacy to each man individually, then from man to man. There was no judgment, no comparison, no shaming. They all knew too well, the hell each had to live in, and the courage it was taking to turn toward heaven instead.
Lesson #4: Gratitude and Appreciation
The meal ended. Stacy and I moved to the cleanup area as the residents returned their trays and utensils. We stood side by side, greeting the men, accepting their gratitude and appreciation for the meal given them. I looked into tear-filled eyes and cautious smiles as they expressed sincere thanks, and was overwhelmed by their gratitude for what I perceived as a small act of kindness bestowed on another. There was no rushing, no off hand mumbling, no pretense, only genuine gratitude offered.
I felt a gentle hand on my shoulder and looked up to see Stacy smiling down on me. In that moment, I realized I no longer felt the slightest bit of intimidation from this extremely tall man, only complete and unconditional love and acceptance. This man, a stranger two hours ago, had willingly and effortlessly filled my soul with something I had yet to receive from any other person I had known…unconditional love. Not for who I am or what I did, unconditional love for simply being.
This man, Stacy, from St. Louis, this incredibly tall man had just taught me human-ness.
As I went to leave, Stacy lifted his hand for a high five. With his brilliant smile and sparkling eyes, he humbly thanked me for helping him. He was grateful for my assistance and willingness to take time out of my busy day.
I stretched as high as I could to reach his hand, and with tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat, whispered…
“Thank you for teaching me how to be human.”
Photo Credit: Getty Images